OP-ED: A Pa. senatorial candidate for the people


If Pennsylvanians ever needed better senatorial representation, that time is now.

Voters will soon have the opportunity to replace incumbent Sen Pat Toomey with someone whose proven mettle, voting record and relevant experience is exceeded only by his integrity and concern for doing what's right for his constituents and for the nation. That individual is Democratic candidate Admiral (Ret.) Joe Sestak.

Why am I so convinced? Let's compare Sen. Toomey's experience and voting record with Sestak's and the reason should become clear: Toomey's prior job history includes a long stint in banking, involved with currency swap transactions and currency-related derivatives.

Remember those mystifying products? They played a major role in the collapse of our leading financial institutions and the worst decline in our economy since the Great Depression.

After leaving the banking industry and serving three terms in the House of Representatives, Toomey lost his first bid for the Senate. In the wake of that defeat, he became president of Club for Growth, a Washington, D.C.-based ultra-conservative lobbying organization. In that role, Toomey was influential in pushing a far-right, pro-corporate agenda to legislators.

Elected to the Senate on his second try, Sen. Toomey has remained firmly on the side of Big Business.

While his public statements impart a message of support and concern for average Americans like you and me, his actions tell quite another story. Toomey has voted time and again against legislation to rebuild and repair our crumbling infrastructure and against more accessible health care for all Americans, while voting consistently to slash benefits and/or funding for seniors, the military, medical research, consumer safety and the environment.

I wrote to Sen. Toomey recently, objecting to his position to eradicate government subsidies for alternative energy sources like wind and solar. I received a response informing me that because those industries have expanded so significantly, he believes they are no longer deserving of assistance. I returned his letter with the following note: "Dear Senator Toomey, I suppose that means you will also now begin to vote against all subsidies for the multi-trillion dollar fossil fuel industry you have so faithfully supported in the past."

Now, let's review Joe Sestak's record: first of all, Sestak's entire career has been dedicated to serving others. As a 3-star Admiral in the U.S. Navy, his command included thousands of military personnel and an entire battle group. His advanced degrees, including a PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University, made him a wise choice to inform the Chief of Naval Operations on improvements to military efficiency, effectiveness, strategy and fiscal policy, just one of a long list of national-level advisory positions he's undertaken. Sestak's direct participation in Middle East military actions and profound understanding of that area's complex cultures have prepared him well for the difficult and dangerous foreign policy matters we currently face. As a former member of the House of Representatives, Sestak's support for the military is well-documented; for instance, co-sponsoring a bill to provide a cost of living increase to veterans' disability benefits, and voting to reduce the "Widow's Tax" for survivors of military spouses.

On a personal note, Joe's daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor when she was quite young. Thankfully she was cured and is a health young lade today, but the family's painful journey has forever sensitized Sestak to what devastation a serious health crisis can wreak, plus the importance of access to high quality care and necessity for ongoing medical research.

While monitoring Joe's recent 422-mile walk across our state, I watched him interact with Pennsylvanians from every social and economic background. I was moved by his obvious concern and understanding of issues as he humbly listened to the hopes and fears of everyday citizens. Pennsylvanians want less poverty, a restoration of the middle class, and their one vote to mean something once more. They told him they desperately need someone to advocate for them, not for mega-corporations and billionaires, and to show such advocacy through deeds, not idle words.

Joe Sestak has proven he's up to the task, accomplishing far more in support of his constituents and in passing helpful legislation during his tenure than the average legislator. I'm frankly perplexed to learn that another Democratic candidate has just entered the campaign after some urging from Beltway insiders. In my opinion, that shoots the Party in its collective foot, since Joe would make the most exceptional senator and most assuredly bring honor to the role. It's time to elect someone of Joe's caliber, who will champion what's good for his constituents, his state and his nation.